Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows
"Never underestimate your power to change yourself."
~Dr. Wayne Dyer
What is the belief system that enables us to love some animals and eat
others? Social psychologist and professor of psychology and sociology
Melanie Joy calls our underlying assumptions about meat eating (eg, that
it's natural for us, it's a given, and it's the way things are and the
way they've always been), carnism. This pervasive ideology is
ingrained in us from earliest childhood by our parents, teachers,
friends, and community. Insidious industry slogans that proclaim that
"Milk does a body good" and "Meat is Real Food for Real People,"
continuously condition us into believing that without animal products,
we would wither and die (or at the very least, become sick or frail).
How ironic, when just the opposite is true.
In Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows Joy reminds us how
these messages further ingrain in us the false belief that eating
certain, "inferior" animals is ethical and appropriate. But why only certain
animals? Why is a pig thought to be less intelligent than the family
dog? (Actually, pigs are even smarter than most dogs.) And why do we
believe that certain animals like chickens and fish are not capable of
feeling pain and fear, when science and logic tell us that they do? Such
cultural ideas are transmitted and repeated over and over, spreading
like viruses—duplicating and infiltrating every aspect of our lives.
They become so completely entrenched in us, we never stop to think about
the impact our adherence to carnistic ideology has on ourselves, the
animals, or the planet.
Ten billion animals are (deliberately) slaughtered for food in the US
every year. While the vast majority of them either have feathers or live
in the sea, how many of us know that each year millions of
factory-farmed egg-laying chickens suffer uterine prolapse or death by
wood chipper? How many of us know that hundreds of billions of dolphins,
sharks, sea turtles, seals, whales, and other "nontarget" fish get
tangled in nets and hooked by long-lines, are thrown back into the
water, and left to slowly bleed to death?
"If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities." ~Voltaire
Such enormous disregard for life is made possible by our attachment to
carnism, an ideology that is, as Joy points out, an oppressive cultural
mind-think, as noxious as racism. In the same way that Nazis were able
to murder Jewish children and then go home and hug their own sons and
daughters, we cause the suffering of cows, pigs, lambs, turkeys,
chickens, and fishes, eat their bodies, and then hug our dogs and cats.
But Joy does not lead us on this journey into mass delusion without also
providing a light to guide us out of the darkness. She reminds us how
all systems of violent oppression depend on both their invisibility and
our ability to dissociate or find elaborate rationalizations to keep
from recognizing the suffering of socially sanctioned inferiors. In Why
We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows she unmasks the underlying
mythology that keeps us chained to carnism, and by naming and witnessing
it, offers us a clear path from apathy to empathy.